Journey to Lamma Island, Hong Kong
Lamma Island, Hong Kong.
After a few days navigating the vertical urban jungle that is Hong Kong proper, I was itching for something a little more slow-paced. Or rather, I was looking for somewhere quiet to wait out my hangover from Rugby Sevens and the massive street party that ensues when rugby fans from around the world descend on Hong Kong for one raucous weekend of rugby-watching and beer-guzzling. I wouldn’t call myself a rugby fanatic by any means, but the enthusiasm of all the genuine fans was intoxicating, and I found it hard not to get carried away in all the jubilation. What could be more disarming than throngs of happy, handsome rugby fans dressed in Halloween costume? I asked one of the men who happened to be dressed as an infant, pacifier and all, why everyone was in costume and he said that since Brits are generally boring people, they enjoy dressing up in outrageous get-ups to make themselves feel more interesting. There you have it, British self-deprecation at its best.
Hong Kong’s many outlying islands are well connected by an extensive ferry network, so after a quick half hour sail from Central, my ferry pulled up to a sleepy harbor-front with squat two-story building facades. Parked up bikes congested the dock in a way reminiscent of Scandinavia or the Netherlands, their presence signaling the first hint of the slowness that people often refer to as “island time.” The scene couldn’t have been any more different from the center’s sky-scraping profile and car clogged streets. (In fact, cars aren’t even permitted on Lamma island.) I walked along the main drag with the rest of the day-trippers, past seafood restaurants displaying their death-row marine life in great tanks. I continued ambling along the waterfront, taking in the details: a dog catching the breeze with his tongue as he sailed by in a bike basket, old toothless women smiling from their perch on a stone wall, vendors selling exotic goods like dried starfish.
I realized I must have fallen off the tourist track when I found myself alone at the entrance of a temple, without a single tourist in sight. My moment of solitude was interrupted by a decrepit old woman who emerged from the shadows of the temple, gesturing for me to enter. With a weathered hand she led me to the altar, shoved some incense in my general direction, and pointed to the Buddha as she curled her tongue like a parrot around the words “luhck! Luhck!” I took this to mean that I should make a wish or a prayer or something and stake my incense in the big pot of ash that lay before me. When my incense stuck, the woman’s sweetness instantly soured, and her poor English miraculously improved to produce a perfectly delivered “money!” I forked over whatever spare change I had, to which she grunted a modest approval. I took my leave wondering which one of us had been ripped off, and whether I’d get lucky anytime soon.
Practical Info: Ferries to Yung Shue Wan, the larger of the two harbors on Lamma island, depart from Hong Kong’s Central Pier 4. For more information about transportation to and from Lamma island as well as other useful tips, check out the wonderfully informative site Hong Kong Extras. For a ferry schedule click here.